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Ancient coins at charity auctions?


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Hello everyone,

I've been toying with an idea and was curious whether anyone here has tried it.

The thought has been to put an ancient coin in a charity auction - typically one of those dinners where there's a silent auction that isn't really silent because you can see people writing on the sheet. 🙂 I'm thinking the following type of coin.

  • Some "mainstream" piece from a person most people would have heard of. I'm thinking Alexander the Great or Athens, though I'm unsure whether I would use a lifetime or posthumous example (because I'm not sure if the bidders would care).
  • Buy a decently sized coin like a tetradrachm, so it looks showy.
  • Probably get it slabbed. I know this is sacrilege, but the specific auction I'm thinking of is headed by members of our local NFL team and is sports oriented, so people there would be used to sports cards and other things slabbed. (which makes me wonder whether an Aspendos stater would be a wiser choice)
  • Write a story with the history of the coin

In order for the ordeal to be worth it, I'd obviously want the coin to receive a bid significantly higher than what I paid. Otherwise, it would make more sense for me to just donate the money directly...

What I'm unsure about is whether there would be interest. I feel pretty confident that if I'm patient I can pick up an Athens or Alexander tet for a very competitive price, but it would be heartbreaking for me to spend several hundred on a coin that winds up going for 50 bucks.

Has anyone here tried this?

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Non-collectors won't know how much the coin is worth, or if it is authentic.

They might bid very little, thinking it is some kind of replica.

They might bid very high, then feel foolish for paying too much.

I realize this is a charity auction, raising money for a good cause.  However, your winner is going to go on reddit.com or some other site to brag about the great Roman coin he won for $200 and hear people telling him he was ripped off.  I realize the coin is less of a rip-off than $200 for a dinner for two at a restaurant.  Yet everyone knows how much dinner is worth, so no one feels bad the next day.

Maybe it will work out great.

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My thoughts were similar to @Ed Snible. Of course you have some idea of what the audience will be like, but it sounds risky to me. I could easily see the coin underselling significantly. On the other hand it may be alright. Anything could happen in a situation like that.

It would be cool, though, and worth something just to spread the interest around. Maybe whoever won the coin would be spurred to dig deeper and end up accidentally falling into the rabbit hole along with all of us. 🙂 

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Maybe the prize should be a cheap but interesting coin, like a VG drachm of Alexander the Great, plus an afternoon with @kirispupis in his coin vault?

This might appeal to anyone with an unrealized interest in coins and antiquities.  Everyone bidding would know what to expect.

Another danger is that no one would bid.  I have been at charity auctions where "the house" has to bid to avoid making the donor feel awkward.  Then the coin not only undersells but you have to spend an hour with someone who isn't sure why they are there.

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